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perception, but that battle is going on even before vietnam, et cetera. and so you got a lot of grief and remorse, et cetera, but i know what -- let alone what people care in the private lives. >> do you think the might be different because, well, world war ii, the outcome is clear who won. .. >> i didn't get into many other issues here. so even though we won the war there was wide disagreement.
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john heresy, whose book on hiroshima in 1946, he interviews some of the japanese who are there, it's a bestseller in '46. in 1994 the smithsonian can't mount an exhibit showing japanese suffering. but in '46 we're more willing to at least think about it. i'm not taking a position even on truman here, right or wrong. i'm saying that the public had a broader perspective and a more sort of, there were more cross currents in the way we saw world war ii in the '40s than we saw it in the '90s where we were very reluctant to look at a critical appraisal of the war. >> [inaudible] >> the one thing i'm missing is what happens to the existential in the abyss and the sense of nothingness with all the books and the memorials in their own
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way of the meaninglessness and the astonishment that came from all the death of the second world war, from all the horrors of hitler, before the bomb. this theme seems to be completely absent in the discussion we're having now. >> so you didn't read the book. [laughter] >> [inaudible] >> you get a b+. i talk a little bit about that, and your point is a very good point. i do talk about this. there was an attitude here and throughout the world coming out of world war ii that where the hell are we going with our futures? okay, we won. the good guys won, japan and germany had evil regimes. america, thal lice, you know -- the allies, fine. but what about the larger implication that whether you
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were american or german had such tremendous capacity to kill massive amounts of people. that's your point, that's the abyss, etc. if you want to read more about that, read the work of america's probably greatest theologian at the time, ryan hold niebuhr. and niebuhr's point is this, we're very good about talking about the nobility of our victory, and he was absolutely in favor of destroying hitler. i mean, now we know, thank god, that he had to be destroyed. but he says we have no willingness to talk about -- and this is his word now -- our own wickedness. you know, we, too, have the capacity for mass killing, and in that we begin to see the beginnings and part of that debate about how good this war really was. yeah, good question. [applause] >> you're watching 48 hours of
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nonfiction authors and books on c-span2's booktv. >> up next, jefferson morley recounts the first race riot in washington, d.c. and the two subsequent criminal trials tried by d.c. district attorney, francis scott key. in key defended slavery in his prosecution and sought capital punishment only to be thwarted by the alleged victim, anna thornton, whose late husband, william thornton, designed the u.s. capitol. this is just over 50 minutes. [applause] >> thank you, ethan, for that nice introduction. and thanks to magers and quinn for hosting this event. um, i suggested this to ethan back in the winter, and they were never anything less than
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enthusiastic about having me. this was always my destination when i came to a minneapolis bookstore, and i'm very glad i landed here. um, i want to tell you a little bit about the book, i'm going to read a little bit about the book. it's nice to be here and see so many old familiar faces, you know? have a feeling of what a special place marshall u was, and i think there's a few people here who will at least remember the place, if not agree with me. so it's always nice to be back with old friends. i'll really date myself here, i even attended an advanced placement class at the old west high school which was right down here on hennepin, and you have to be really old to remember when west high school was there. >> i beg your pardon. [laughter] >> you know, people have asked me a lot, they say, well, you
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know, why did you write this book, so long ago and so obscure, and i usually say because it's just a great story, it's just a story of what happened, the events themselves are so amazing. and as a writer, as a fiction writer, i would never dare to make them up, the kind of plot twists that this book has. when i realized that they had all happened, i thought that was really terrific. so people say why'd you write the book, i say because it was such a great story. but as i got into the book, i realized there was more too it than that, and the book had a profound message. it takes place between the revolutionary war period in the late 18th century and the civil war which are the two great periods in american history that get written about a lot by historians.
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what i realized as i was writing this book was pretty much everything you know about that period and everything you've been taught about that period is flat wrong, is completely wrong. and so i realized that part of this book is to, is to tell people that, that everything you thought you understood about this time is completely wrong. so if you think of washington in 1835, 25 years before the civil war, you know, what would you think? you would think, well, you know, slavery was well entrenched, you know, the black people were miserable, the whites were kind of cruel and indifferent. and that's, actually, not true at all. in washington, in washington, washington had about 30,000 people then as a city, 12,000 of them were black. the majority of the black people in washington, actually, in 1830 were free, were not slaves. out of the 12,000 black people, slightly more than half were free.
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some were prosperous, and otherses were getting there fast. there was a man named lynch wormly who owned a big livery stable two blocks from the white house, and he heavenned horses to the city's -- he served horses to the city's taxi trade. there were two brothers, thomas and isaac kerry, they owned a couple of barbershops on pennsylvania avenue. they came from a free black family in virginia that had been free for generations. in fact, one of those black families had opened slaves themselves. the kerry brothers, also, while they were cutting hair, would also sell anti-slavery publications on the sly, on the side. and the hero of the book, beverly snow, was -- ran the city's finest restaurant called the epicurean eating house. he's really the hero of the book. i think of him as a barack obama, slightly ahead of him
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time, a very clever and intelligent mixed-race man who comes out of nowhere to conquer and charm washington, serve the washington elite what they want only to face a tremendous backlash. and i think if you read the book, you'll see some parallels to our own time there. anyway, the point is that in this book far from slavery being dominant in washington, d.c. and all-oppressive force, slavery's actually receding, and the forces of liberty are growing, and that's really part of what this book is about. the second thing you probably think is you probably think the civil war began in, oh, you know, april 1861 with the, with the gunfire at fort sumter. that's when the shooting of the civil war began, but part of the argument of this book is that the civil war actually began 30 years before that. um, it is in this period in the early 1800s that the anti-slavery movement first comes to washington, and the
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direct ideological conflict that leads to the civil war, the conflict between the people who are for slavery and the people who are against it, it actually starts in this time in washington. that's not something that you get taught in the history books, but you'll see from this story that that is actually the case, and that's what happened. so it's this band of people, the kerry brothers, um, lynch wormly, beverly snow who actually are the ones that really start the fight against slavery and the great expansion of american freedom that that brought. they had a, this little group of black entrepreneurs had a white friend, a man named ben lundy who was an you would to have who traveled around the country kind of like a familiar fate for me. [laughter] and he had an anti-slavery
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newspaper called the genius of universal emancipation, and he would travel around, and most of the newspapers of the day really avoided the slavery issue and didn't really, i mean, they'd report on the politics of it, but they didn't can really want to get into it. ben lundy went around the country and reported, you know, there was a killing, this man was beat, here's how these slaves escaped, here's how the churches have caved in. he really did real investigative reporting about slavery, quite unprecedented at the time. and as anti-slavery sentiment, as this movement starts to grow in washington, he has enough money to hire a new assistant, and he hires a promising young man from boston named william lloyd garrison. and he teaches william lloyd garrison how to report about slavery. and in a great irony, benjamin lundy would go on to die in obscurity, and garrison would become one of the most influential american journalists of the 19th century.
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um, another thing you probably think is you probably think, well, you know, the only important thing that francis scott key did in his life was write the lyrics to the star-spangled banner. wrong again. he wrote the lyrics in 1814, and he went on to a long and very interesting career in politics which is completely unknown to most people. francis scott key really was kind of a modern washington character. after he became famous in 1814 for writing the star-spangled banner, he did what people in washington usually do, he parlayed his fame into a lucrative law practice. [laughter] then he or parlayed that into political connections and into a job. and tastles the culmination -- that was the culmination of key's political career in 1833 when he was appointed to be the district attorney for the city of washington. and what he did in that time
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was -- i wouldn't say it was as significant as writing the star-spangled banner which was, obviously, an enduring feat, but it was very important. unknown, an unknown fact about francis scott key is that his best friend and brother-in-law was a man named roger tawny, and he was very politically ambitious and, um, with key's help, ascended to a job in the administration of andrew jackson. key helped tawny become the u.s. attorney general, then the secretary of the treasury, and then in 1836, the chief justice of the supreme court. roger tawny went on to write the dred scott tradition in 1857 which hastened the coming of the civil war. so key and tawny were inseparable political figures in this period and influential and important in a way that has been totally forgotten n. -- in
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washington there's a key bridge which crosses the potomac river, and right by what it is is a -- by where it is is a park where key used to live, and there's lots of exhibits devoted to him. there's one that says key was active in anti-slavery causes, and this is flat wrong. it's completely wrong. it would be much more accurate to say key was active in suppressing anti-slavery causes. part of the point of this book is to remind people of all the things that we really don't want to remember about our own history. so this is a book, also a book about the real francis scott key. but i don't want to give the wrong impression. this book is not a to hem call book, it's not out to score points, it's mostly out to tell the amazing story of washington in 1835 and '36 which begin on the night of august 4, 1835, 177 years ago when a young man, a
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servant, a 19-year-old african-american man stumbles into the bedroom of his mistress, of the woman who owns him, anna maria thornton, in the middle of the night carrying an axe. and mrs. thornton is sleeping this the room with her servant who is arthur's mother, the mother of the boy who has just stumbled into the room. so the two women wake up, scream. arthur's mother shoos him out the door, slams the door. arthur's outside yelling and shouting that he wants to be free, that he's gonna be free. the neighbors gather, and arthur runs away, and the word begins to spread, mrs. thornton has been attacked in her bedroom. by a slave with an axe. this report comes at a very tense time in washington. this burgeoning anti-slavery movement is distributing
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anti-slavery publications to everybody in town. for the first time, the anti-slavery movement is really impressing upon people the reality of slavery with these kind of written reports, very detailed, about what is really involved and the brutality of slavery. and so among the blacks and the abolitionist whites, this is overdue, but among a lot of whites, they fear that this is the first shot in a slave rebellion and that arthur was part of a slave rebellion in attacking mrs. thornton. and so when arthur turns himself in a few days later and says i have no memory of what happened, he's whisked off to jail, and a mob converges on the jail in downtown washington, in judiciary square, and tries to -- seeking to lynch arthur, demanding he be turned over so he can be hung on the spot. francis scott key comes to the defense of the jail and is trying to hold back the crowd. he's about to get overrun when,
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fortunately, the secretary of the navy calls in the troops from the navy yard on the other side of washington. the troops march down pennsylvania avenue, surround the jail and push the crowd back and protect the jail so that arthur will not be lynched. so order is only temporarily restored, though, because the mob decide to turn their fury on every other free black person in town. and so the mobs begin to split up and attack the people, any black people who have property, the black churches, the black schools, the black whorehouses, any place where they gathered, the mobs were going to destroy them. including, first and foremost, beverly snow's restaurant which is a symbol, the similar knoll washington of black success. the restaurant's at the corner of sixth and pennsylvania, it's frequented by politicians, senators, congressmen, the
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finest of high society. beverly snow is a well known and respected character, and the mob in its fear of this anti-slavery movement, in this fear of a slave insurrection and its fear of black success attacks snow. snow had friends. he knew there was trouble coming, and he manages to escape, get away. but the mob trashes his restaurant, drinks all his liquor, pours it all out and then goes on this rampage and destroy it is city. um, and it's quite a shocking event. it's been totally forgotten in the history of washington. when i asked people about this -- one reason i decided to write the book was i asked people if they'd ever heard of the riot in washington of 1835, and i never met anybody who had. completely forgotten. but when you read the newspapers of the day, you realize what a shocking event it was. it was the worst thing that had happened in washington since the british had invaded 0 years before -- 30 years before.
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well, this was comparable damage, but it had not been inflicted by a foreign army, it had been inflicted by americans themselves, and there was a lot of shame and remorse about how could this happen, a lot of recriminations. and so francis scott key is determined to pursue the agenda of the jackson administration which is to make sure that the slave orderly is safe -- orderly orderly -- order is safe in washington. as district attorney has the job of establishing law and order. and so he does this in a couple of ways. the first thing that he does is he puts arthur bowen of trial for the attempted murder of mrs. thornton. he also arrests and puts on trial a white abolitionist, an anti-slavery man from new york, a doctor named rubin crandall
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who wanted to send the message to not just to the anti-slavery forces in washington, but to the anti-slavery forces everywhere in the country, your activities will not be tolerated at all. and so, um, that, the book tells the story of how the riot comes to pass and then the story of the criminal trials that follow. so, um, when arthur bowen goes on trial in december 1835, he is very eager to win a conviction. by this time mrs. thornton has come forward and come to the defense of her alleged assailant. and she says in the trial that, um, arthur never lifted the axe, that she'd never believed that he intended to hurt her, that, um, she felt safe in his presence, that he was just drunk and that she wanted the whole thing to go away. well, key was implacable, and he didn't listen to this. he managed to get other people
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to override her m -- testimony. and so arthur bowen is convicted, and there's only one punishment for that which is the death penalty, capital punishment. so arthur bowen goes on to death row, and in january of 1836 is sentenced to die in about a month. and so with the clock ticking, mrs. thornton, um, does something even more unbelievable. i mean, it was amazing enough that she had testified on arthur's behalf in the criminal trial, but now she goes out and starts recruiting her friends in high society of washington, and she was a very prominent woman with many prominent friends, easy access to the leadership of the country. she went to vice president van buren and said, you know, use your good offices with the president, with president jackson, tell him that he should pardon arthur, you know? his mother is very good, you
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know? she says the execution would be worse than the crime and that she couldn't contemplate that arthur would be executed. key and jackson are unmoved, and so the clock keeps ticking down. and i'm going to read you a little part of the book about what happens in february of 1836. in his cell arthur bowen searched for a way to quell the fear of death. he hoped for a pardon from the president, but he had to be ready if it did not happen. he had to admit the truth of what john cook had said all along: yes, he had a right to be free and, yes, liquor would destroy that freedom. arthur's protestations that he never intended to harm mrs. thornton no longer convinced himself. by drinking, the sudden passion of the murder is sharpened. john cook was a schoolteacher
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who had kind of advised arthur about ways to get his freedom, but he was also a temperance man, and he always told the young slave boys if you wanted to be free, you had to learn to read and write, and you had to stop drinking. arthur had condemned himself, and for that he had to take responsibility. he decided to write a poem about this feeling of repentance. with pen and paper in hand, he sat in the dim light of his jail cell thinking about his friends from the race track at prime president's square. he had some talent for writing. farewell, farewell, my young friends, dear. each flying moment brings me near unto my awful fate. he made a curious reference to his family, brought up i was by parents nice whose commands i would not obey, but plunged ahead foremost into vice and into temptation's dreadful way. he admitted his folly in scorning the teachings of his you woulders.
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fog did i -- nothing did i ever drink but liquor very strong. to me was read the awful sentence, they gave me time for my repentance, and then i must be hanged. good-bye, good-bye, my friends so dear, may god almighty please you all. do, if you please, shed but a tear at arthur bowen's unhappy fall. copies of arthur's poem soon circulated. the intelligence, which was the big newspaper in washington, published a copy. the editor of the metropolitan, which was the newspaper in georgetown, pronounced it very credible. everyone in washington seemed to know that mrs. thornton's personal petition for clemency to arthur had been presented to president jackson. it asked him to exercise that mercy which was in his power alone. the people awaited jackson's response with the deepest anxiety. i'm going to leave it there. [laughter] you have to buy the book.
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[laughter] to find out what happens next. so i want to close with one note, um, just to bring this story back to the present. in the -- when the book was reviewed in "the washington post", the reviewer took issue with an argument that i make in the book which is that as i spent more and more time writing the book, i realized there was more and more similarity between the politics of the 1830s and our politics today. and i said that really the red/blue politics that we, that we see today, the red states conservative, the blue states liberal, if you look, it really originates in this period. and i disagree quite strongly with that, with the reviewer's contention. he said: readers may find the element of the book jarring, beginning with the assertion that pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in the 1830s resemble today's
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political division between red and blue. this anachronism is unhelpful at best, misleading at worst. i totally disagree. i think the similarities are quite clear, and they really revolve around the timeless issues of american politics, and it's no surprise that they are the same. then as now, um, americans argue about what are property rights, what kind of property rights does any individual have? in the 1830s, that involved slavery. did people have the right to own property in people? and the red forces which are traditionally the forces that are in favor of max mall property rights were in favor of the property rights embodied in slavery. and the liberal forces had, said, you know, no, there's no such thing as property in
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people. the debate about slavery was a debate about citizenship. did the blacks have the right to be citizens? it's very similar to today's debate about illegal immigration. do these people have the right -- do they deserve the right to be citizens? then, as now, the key -- conservatives took the restricted position, no, citizenship is reserved for native-born americans. then, as now, the liberals took a more expansive view, that citizenship was open to a greater number of people. also with free speech, when francis scott key is prosecuting the anti-slavery movement, it's a classic free speech argument of the type we still have today. no, we have to restrict free speech rights to protect our slavery. if we allow the anti-slavery forces to say this, then we'll have slave rebellions, and we'll all be insecure. so we need to restrict free speech rights, and that's the
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same argument that conservatives make today and liberals take the same position which is, no, free speech rights should be max mall, and that is a very strong theme that runs throughout the book, and some people disagree with it. read for yourself and decide for that, i think i'm going to stop and, um, maybe just answer some, any questions that people have about the book or what i've said so far. yes. >> where did you first come across this piece of history, and how long did you nurture it before you decided to write a book? >> i first heard about this about 1998. i was a reporter at "the washington post," i was working on a story about a neighborhood historic preservation dispute which got me to read some history of the city of washington. and that's when i found, i first
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heard there'd been a race riot in 1835, and i found out francis scott key had been the district attorney. and i went around the post newsroom, and i asked people, did you know about this race riot? nobody had written about it, and nobody knew about it. so i knew it was a story then. and so i wrote a piece for the sunday magazine for "the washington post" in 2005, but i always thought it was such a great story that if i ever had the chance, i would write a whole book about it. so i kind of had it in the back of my mind. ask then in 2009 i -- and then in 2009 i got fired from a job, i said, no job, you always want today write that book, have a good time. so even after 2005, i always thought i will write a book about this someday. and i had continued to read and do more research, so i nurtured et for a long time. then when i got the contract, that was three years ago, so it took about two years to research and finish the book.
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that whole time. so -- >> you mentioned william lloyd garrison. >> yeah. >> yes. >> and he was alive at this particular incident, was he in washington, you say? >> well, um, so garrison, what garrison and line uppity did -- lundy did, nobody had ever done in american journalism, they would go out and write about specific slave traders, and they would name names. phobe had done this before. lundy started doing it, and he taught garrison to do fit. originally, they were publishing in baltimore which was a bigger slave-trading town, so they both wrote articles about different slave trader, one saying this man was a beast because he had sold off children, he had broke] up families -- actually, both of them. that's what they wrote about. and in both cases the slave traders waylaid them after their articles had appeared, beat the
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hell out of them. and when lundy filed chargings in his case, the judge said, well, you deserved it and dismissed the charges, dismissed the case. in garrison's case, after beating garrison up, the slave trader also charged him with libel. so garrison was about to go on trial in baltimore in 1833 and was, knew that he was not going to get a fair trial, so he skipped town. so he left in 1833, and he went back to boston. and that's when he founded the liberator. and lundy had to leave town as well. key charged him in 1833 with -- lundy wrote an article about, a story that was well known in washington at the time which was black woman was walking across the bridge over the potomac, and a constable started chasing her. and all the black people in
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washington knew what that moment. the constables sup mr. presidented -- sup mr. presidented their incomes by selling blacks into slavery, so the woman ran away, she fell off the bridge, and she drowned. they got her body out, and they buried her. so that was that. lundy wrote an article and said, look, this is what happened, if district attorney isn't going to do anything about it, then congress should do something about it. key hit the roof, so he immediately charged lundy with libel and charged his printer. key was trying to drive the anti-slavery people out of the capital. they wanted to get rid of the anti-slavery forces in washington. so lundy did the same thing as garrison. he was facing a thousand dollar fine which would be like, you know, $20,000 or $100,000 in today's money.
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and so lundy collected one last meal from his friends, and he took off and went to philadelphia. so, um, yeah. so the anti-slavery movement was very embattled throughout this time, and that was, you know, that was key's mission, was to kind of drive these people out and suppress them. >> was there at this time what you would call a mainstream press that was covering this whole thing including the abolitionist papers? >> no. >> how -- >> there were a lot of papers at time. there were three daily newspapers in washington at the time reflecting three different political tendencies, and there' was a weekly newspaper, and then there was a weekly newspaper in georgetown which was a separate, you know, georgetown is now part of washington, d.c., but then it was a separate municipality. so there were a lot of newspapers. but these were newspapers thatñm were aligned with political
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factions in the government, and so they would talk about, they would write about slavery as the politics of slavery were playing out in congress, so theyw8w8 presented a petition for thewxw8 abolition of slavery in the district of columbia. they would write a story about that.w8u8 but about the experience of slavery or the abuses ofw÷ slavery, they would never, they would never write about. >> and what about the race riot and the --w÷ >> oh -- >> and all that? >> the race riot was very well covered because it was very shocking. nobody expected that to happen, and there was a lot of recriminations and debate, and,x youu8 know, and who was786] responsible.7x kind of then the white working men, the riots were attributed in the newspapers to what wereux called mechanics, and a mechani8 was --7:w: >> [inaudible] >> a mechanic was any kind of7x working man. it wasn't like our conception of an auto mechanic.
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it was any annual worker. -- manual worker.7: the mechanics got together and78 said, youw8 know, how dare you 8 we did this. there was lots of rekrill -- recriminations, but, you know,w: like what happened to beverlyu98 snow, nobody ever wrote aboutu8 that.u8 but you could tell in readingu88 the newspapers, i saw -- i mean, snow took out advertisements all the time. that was the chief way that i figured out who he was. because he, his ads were very witty, they a changed all the time -- they changed all the time, and he really disclosed a lot of his personality in there. but, you know, when push came to shove, no white authorities wanted to be seen in the5x position of defending the freeu8 blacks. so that was why, that was why788 the public authority kind of collapsed, because nobody wanted to be seen as doing that. and the newspapers were part of that, you know? they really didn't want to, they didn't want to touch the issue.
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it was a little too explosive for them. >> and mrs. thornton's campaign? >> mrs. thornton's campaign, well, that was the thing, they couldn't ignore mrs. thornton. mrs. thornton was very prominent. her husband, william thornton, had designed the u.s. capitol, was a very close friend of george washington's, was a close friend of thomas jefferson's. so she's a leading lady in society. and so while they wouldn't write about what she was doing directly, i mean, that part, you know, you could tell the word had gotten around that mrs. thornton was trying to get, was trying to help arthur. and so that was kind of, you could kind of see that. nobody ever wrote an article about that, but you heard intimations of that throughout the press coverage of the time. yeah. >> um, a couple questions. you, um, have talked a lot about the different parallels, um, between then and now, and you -- i guess i'd be interested just
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more frontally talking about race then and now and what parallels you might see. and then, also, um, you're talking about the then and now, it's kind of sounding like we're condemned to repeat history. is that your -- is that your conclusion, or is there something we can learn from what you're -- >> well, no. i mean i think, yes, the politics of race are central, and when i talk about those principles, you know, that we debate in kind of red/blue, liberal/conservative division, you know, race runs through those. and that's a big part of it. i mean, i think one thing that's remarkable about this story, and i remember on inauguration day when president obama is coming up pennsylvania avenue, and he gets out and starts walking down the street, and i'm watching the tv and i'm like, oh, my god, that's snow's corner. that was where believerly
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snow -- beverly snow has his restaurant. and nobody knows it. not even barack obama himself. this is like the quintessential obama story, and nobody knows it. and i think, to me, i don't know if this is, doesn't directly answer your question, but this idea of, you know, just black success is just like written out of history. it's just, it's sort of religiously forgotten. and, i mean, the only way -- that's my only explanation for why this story is not known, why nobody knows the story of beverly snow or the riot of 1835. with -- are we condemned to repeat it? well, i think the obama experience tells you that, you know, these continuities run very deep, you know in and the backlash against obama i think is akin to the backlash against beverly snow. obama's the president, he's not country's in better shape,
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but the underlying dynamics are >> kind of beyond the scope of the book, but, um, was there any sort of organized or vocalized response from the black commitment itself in washington at the time? was it, basically, everybody run and hide? >> no, there was. in fact, isaac kerry, who was the barber, probably beverly next to the restaurant, then filed a lawsuit because there was a crackdown on black businesses after all this happened. perversely, the white authorities, the response of the white riot was to crack down on black business and to deny blacks the right to own licenses the to -- in his case he was selling perfume in his barbershop, and he wanted to keep his license to sell perfume, and he won that case.
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but the riot was very discouraging for washington, and a lot of the most able and successful blacks left and went to toronto. and beverly snow and william walker, who was his business partner, another free black man, wound up in toronto. the kerry brothers, thomas and isaac kerry, wound up in toronto. so it was kind of an exodus because they had reached the limits of what was possible in washington, and they could see they weren't going to be allowed to go any farther, and so they moved on. yeah. >> say something about the research, your frustrations, your triumphs? >> well, um, i always knew like your question that i was going to do this book, and one reason why i knew it was because the sources were so interesting, and there were so many good sources. probably the first and foremost was the anna thornton, by the time this story takes place, is
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55 years old. she has been keeping a diary of her life for close to 40 years. and pretty much wrote down every day, you know, five days a week, six days a week what happened in her life. she budget -- this is not -- she wasn't, this is not an emotional diary, she was not an expressive type of person, but she just said what happened in her life. mr. adams came over, you know, that was john quincy adams, mr. adams came over, we played chess. i read, she read mary shelley, frankenstein, and she thought that was there are morbid. [laughter] she went to the market, and she paid, you know, the cents for a -- 12 cents for a dozen eggs, and she wrote down all of her purchase. so for recreating daily life, this was an extraordinary source, and it made me realize i was going to be able to recreate daily life in an intimate way.
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i wanted to write a book about the way people live inside washington. and this came a kind of mission of mine as i got into this research, was to write a book that was really about live anything washington and not about -- living in washington and not about washington politics. the daily newspapers were an abundant source of information just because there were so many of them, and you had these different tendencies, so they would look at things slightly differently, you know? and you could get a lot of information that way. and then i spent a lot of time in the national archives, and i found the docket book of the court for the circuit court at the time. so you could find out, you know, who was wreaking the law -- breaking the law, who was suing each other, how did business deals go bad. you could really get a sense of the texture of the daily life. and finally the last thing was the property tax records which were also in these big, bound volumes. and there i could track, you know, i could see beverly snow getting richer by the year, you
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know? when he comes to town, he has nothing. after the first year, he's got $100, second year, $200. if you're making $300 a year, you're starting to move into the middle class. so you could track characters that way. so that was another way that i really, you know, learned a lot about the characters that are in this book. and then there was, then there was francis scott key himself who is, you know, everybody knows his name, and yet there hadn't been a biography of him written since 1939, so there was a lot about francis scott key that was just lying around, and roger tawny. when i was doing this research, i found in the court records many indictments, you know, hand signed f.s. key. in my hands i'd have 100 autographs of francis scott key. so that was a, you know, that was a thing.
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the thing that i think i'm most proud of is figuring out who beverly snow was through his advertisements. because he left no records, he left no diary or letters. wherever he went he seemed to attract attention because there were always, people always had anecdotes about him, but i really didn't know that much about him until -- and i'd seen some of the ads, and i thought that was interesting, then i realized, no, you need to read every single newspaper and get every single ad, because that's going to be where he expressed himself. and, n., they're very funny, and you really get a sense of the man. one of his favorite ads was called health made cheap, and he was selling the idea of health food in 1830s and was, like, this food is not only good, it's good for you, you know? a very modern idea. beverly snow was a great, in the true washington tradition, he was a master of self-promotion, you know? he was great at it. a self-invented american. and i think that's really the
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thing that i like the most about this book s that this person who nobody knew existed actually comes to life, and you realize what a great and unusual person he was. and there he is on the pages of the book. >> did you compile the book all at once, absorb all the information and then compile the book, or did you start to compile the book as you went and then revise it? wondered if you were overwhelmed at times with all this reading and with information, or did you pace yourself? >> yeah, well, i did it in phases. i had written the article, the magazine article, so i had expressed it. but when i start today write the book -- started to write the book, i decided i would not start writing right away, and i spent about nine months just doing research. and hen the idea was just -- then the idea was just get everything in place and don't tray and start too early. then once i had that in place, i wasn't overwhelmed. i mean, it took a while. there were three drafts of this book, three full, different versions of it. so it took a while to kind of
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get it under control and figure out what was most important and what could be cut out. and one version was, like, 700 pages long. and that was later, you know, by the end it was probably 300 manuscript pages long. so a lot got left out which you're very lucky because it wasn't that interesting. [laughter] so, but yeah, i mean, it took a while to get the material under control, for sure. >> did you use a filing system, or did you use a geological stratification system that your father used? [laughter] >> what i did was i made a file, and i had a separate file folder for the key period of the book which is 1835 and 1836. i had a folder for every day of the year. >> oh, my god. >> and every newspaper article i would put it into, i would put it into that. so then when the time came and i was writing about august 1835, i could just pull out a week, and
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notes in a row ready to tell the story like that. i have a horror of a blank page. as a writer, you never want to sit down and look at a blank page and go, oh, my god. you don't know where to begin, what to do. so you always want to have good notes in front of you. and so really what you're doing is just kind of editing the notes and turning the notes into prose, so you're never looking at blank page, and that's what, that's how i could get going on it. yeah. >> so did you do this by hard copy? or on your computer? [laughter] >> a little bit of both. i mean, um, i like having, i like having paper copies. when i started and was reading the newspapers at the library of congress, you could only make photocopies of them. later on they had this very cool newspaper. but, so i had -- at some points
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two parallel systems. it was kind of inefficient, but it was just -- that was the only way to do it. and then there were, you know, things that i had found in, you know, letters and things like that that i would make copies of but never turn them into things to go under the computer. so i'm half in the digital world but still half in the paper world. make it happen. yeah. >> i'm interested in the washington. 1835, 30,000 people. >> right. >> 12,000 are african-american. >> right. >> of the 12,000, how many are free? >> 6,000 plus. a majority by like, you know, 50. >> so there's an exodus after this event. what changes within washington? >> well, no, actually that trend continues. and the free black population in washington continues to grow, and, in fact, by the beginning of the civil war, free black
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people outnumber slaves in washington like four to one. so in the next 20 years -- because you have to understand, if you were a black person in virginia and you got your freedom, you had to leave the state within a year by law, or you could be sold back into slavery. and so those people once they got their -- they weren't going to go to boston or new york even though there was no slavery in those places. first of all, philadelphia was a four or five-day ride at best. and then it's an alien culture. it's not a southern culture. so the blacks, once they got district. but, again, this was a big surprise to me, you know, this was not plantation slavery. mrs. thornton, mrs. thornton had a guy who she owned, a man named george plant, and he was her
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driver, and he was kind of the jack of all trades who kept the house up and fixed the wagons and did all of that. well, george, george plant had a wife who was free, and she lived in georgetown, and he had four kids, and they were free. and he would go home at night. and then in the morning he'd go -- so he was a slave who commuted. [laughter] but that was, i mean, that was one of the variations of slavery in washington at that time. also a lot of slaves made money by their owners would hire them out. so your owner would say, okay, you'd be hired out to the owner of a hotel. you'd go and be a waiter at the hotel. but you were there, you were a waiter, you could make tips, you controlled your own time. so slavery was a much more fluid thing in washington, and that's one reason why the anti-slavery movement could get going, was because there was more room to operate. and this was one of the things that key was most upset about, was that this freedom, these little corners of freedom that
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the blacks were finding, everybody understood that was going to be the toe hold, that was going to be the foot in the door to greater freedom, and that was what they were out, you know, that was what they were trying to repress. so like i said, this is when the real ideological struggle over slavery begins. when the slave power's determined to stamp out the anti-slavery forces and the anti-slavery forces are beginning to organize themselves, appeal to public opinion, gain strength in the congress. and that's the fight that, you know, grinds on and then e eventually culminates in the civil war 25 years later. >> your commuter slave, for lack of a better term, would that be more like an indentured slave, someone owing money? would they be able to buy their freedom at that point in time? >> no -- no, that would still be up to the owner.
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sort of written into his terms of slavery that he would be free when he was 30. and so when he was 30, he bought his freedom for $5, but that was something that had been recognized that he was due, and it was legally his due. there were white indentured servants, although that was dying out by the 1830s. but, you know, how black people got their freedom, it happened all different ways. sometimes, you know, it was given to you, sometimes when people died, they freed all their slaves. sometimes they said, you know, the slaves would have to pay, you know, the going rate like, you know, for a healthy young person that could be $800, a i thousand dollars -- a thousand dollars which was, you know, a lot, a lot of money. you could live for a couple years on a thousand dollars. so, but slavery was -- there
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were lots of permutations of slavery in washington. lots of race mixing too. it's amazing to think about, but there's no doubt about it, washington was a more racially-integrated city in 1835 than it is in 2012. there were no black neighborhoods in washington in 1835. blacks and whites lived very much intermingled. there were, you know, black blocks and things like that, but there were no, oh, a black neighborhood. the degree of black literacy at this time? >> it's very hard to tell. john cook was a free black man, um, and he was the, like, the smartest black guy in town, everybody agreed. and he was the teacher at the school. and he had organized a little group for young black men which was trying to teach them, okay,
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you want to get out of slavery, here's how you do it. so, and he, you know, he had a school, and there was -- william wormly, who was the son of lynch wormly who owned the livery stable, also had a school. so, you know, there was education. but, you know, like what percentage, i don't know. arthur bowen was very well, was obviously literate if he could have written that poem. mrs. thornton has taught him to read and write. but how common that was, you know, i don't really know. it's very hard to say. but it was not unknown that black people were literate, each slaves. even slaves. okay. anybody else? sure. >> who was mrs. thornton in bed alone, or who was she with? [laughter] >> mrs. thornton -- so her her own mother
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well. mrs. thornton's mother was probably the one who night was mrs. thornton, her mother, and then mafia bowen -- maria bowen was her personal servant, and other women. was unusual. diary that household together, and, you know, they mean, that's all i one, of course, the only one that stood up yeah. yeah. us if mrs. thornton recorded in her diary the day after arthur came
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in with the axe? last night arthur came in with the axe, or what was said? no. save arthur on death has to -- jack sonthis. so the writes an 18 page event. i mean, second by second detail, both everything that led up to it and everything that followed. so, yeah, you get a very -- you learn firsthand exactly what she saw and what had happened that night. >> and you had access to that letter? >> yeah. i found that letter in the pardon papers of the president, all pardon requests for parlds, petitions to the president, go
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handwritten. for you how many other fascinating stories are just sitting here underneath another piece of paper? >> i mean, after writing this book many, many. i'm sure they're there. i'm sure they're there. and i think they could be very unexpected and surprising.jí so i'm still looking for it so i can write another book. [laughter] okay? >> would that be one of the main lessons that you got from writing this book, or was there another one that you could tell us about? >> i mean, that was really the big one was that, you know, that the way history's taught can be so, can be so misleading, you know? and that the way, the key is to get to the reality of how people lived, you know? not the politics, the way
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history is construed, but actually what was the day-to-day life of the people like. that's what i came away with. so, okay? well, thank you. [applause] >> for more information visit >> this sunday evening on "60 minutes," mark owen, a pen name for a member of seal team six, will describe his book, "no easy day." a firsthand account of the mission that killed osama bin laden. the book was released on tuesday. it debuted at number one in book sales on with a print run of 575,000 copies.
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the author's account of the raid has not been well received by the pentagon, which claims mr. owen violated an agreement that he signed and that the book contains classified information. the author's lawyer state inside a letter to the defense department that his client sought legal advice about his responsibilities before agreeing to publish his book and scrupulously reviewed the work to insure that it did not disclose material that would breach his agreements or put his former comrades at risk. >> here's a look at some books that are being published this week. in "i'd like to apologize to every teacher i ever had: my year as a rookie teacher at northeast high," actor tony danza recounts the year he spent teaching english at philadelphia's largest high school. jeff cohen and john chase report on how rod blagojevich was arrested by the fbi in

Book TV
CSPAN September 9, 2012 8:00am-9:00am EDT

Jefferson Morley Education. (2012) 'Snow Storm in August Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835.'

TOPIC FREQUENCY Washington 55, Mrs. Thornton 20, Francis Scott 12, Beverly 12, Lundy 8, Jackson 6, Arthur Bowen 5, Pennsylvania 4, Toronto 3, William Lloyd Garrison 3, John Cook 3, U.s. 3, Isaac Kerry 3, Philadelphia 3, Boston 3, D.c. 3, William Thornton 2, Obama 2, Navy 2, Bowen 2
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